214 Five cities and five pillars

At an exhibition in Amsterdam titled Urban Islam, the life styles and attitudes toward religion of young Muslims from around the world are presented with short films and attributes from daily life. Their real choices have less to do with faith than with how to dress. They seem more secular than young Americans. Can this be right? Continue reading “214 Five cities and five pillars”

Montias in the Annales

The economist who taught the art historians a thing or two about art. Michael Montias brought about a minor revolution in art studies. He might however have brought in a bit more bathwater that’s good for the baby. Continue reading “Montias in the Annales”

212 The international identity of the Netherlands

The Rijksmuseum is consulting an array of outsiders in formulating its program for the New Rijksmuseum, which is to open in 2008. As a participant in the round-table discussion on “The Rijksmuseum and Dutch national identity,” Schwartz advised the museum to focus instead on Dutch international identity. He attached to it a very concrete proposal for the presentation of Dutch and foreign art in the rebuilt museum art and an interpretation of the philosophy behind the Old Rijksmuseum. Continue reading “212 The international identity of the Netherlands”

209 The taste of the unicorn

A good provenance is not supposed to add to the value of a work of art, but it does. The information that an object was once owned by someone with famous good taste is worth money on the auction block. A collection mainly of Dutch 18th-century drawings that partakes of this quality, coming up at Sotheby’s Amsterdam on 19 May, is the Unicorno Collection, accumulated over the past 50 years by Saam and Lily Nijstad.


Continue reading “209 The taste of the unicorn”

154 The transparent connoisseur 1: Free advice to the Van Gogh Museum

The Van Gogh Museum did not take kindly to my column of January 19th (“The saga of Bouwe Jans”). The museum feels that I criticized it unfairly for the way it handled a request for an expert opinion on the authorship of a possible van Gogh painting. I promised the museum, by way of response, to elaborate on the recommendations in my piece. I do this in print because my remarks were not intended only for the Van Gogh Museum – which I am sure behaved in all good faith in this matter – but for any body, museum or not, that proffers expert opinions on sensitive subjects to the public. Continue reading “154 The transparent connoisseur 1: Free advice to the Van Gogh Museum”

149 The saga of Bouwe Jans

The Van Gogh Museum has the good fortune of having acquired a tenacious, articulate, unforgiving critic with enough right on his side to teach it a valuable lesson. Whether the museum sees it that way I do not know; I‘m sure that I would not enjoy reading about myself the kind of things that the Dutch-English art dealer Bouwe Jans has published about the museum in his cantankerous book Artquakes and van Gogh. Yet the Van Gogh Museum and other arbiters of authenticity do have much to learn from his report. Continue reading “149 The saga of Bouwe Jans”